Monday, September 15, 2008

hrc at barnard

"Dear Friend," began an e-mail that came in at 9:17 this morning from Barnard's PR office without hiding recipient addresses. ("I like the fact that you're right close to Charles Gibson on the list," wrote a friend to whom I forwarded it.) It continued:
We were honored and delighted to meet many of you at last week's reception for President Debora L. Spar, which was hosted by Anna Quindlen '74, Chair of Barnard's Board of Trustees, and Martha Nelson '76. President Spar would like to convey her deepest thanks to all who attended, as well as the many more who offered their warmest wishes and kind words of good luck.

She is starting the new academic year off with a bang -- at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, President Spar and Barnard College will host Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and members of advocacy organizations for a press conference addressing a new U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on pay inequity in the workplace.

I was invited to that reception but, seeing as I live in New London and it was a normal Tuesday, I couldn't go. There's a sweet Barnard trustee who makes me feel valued and adds me to invitation lists, which was how I ended up receiving the above note.

I was free to see Hillary this afternoon - and was already going to be at Barnard - so I RSVP'd with my paper affiliation for me and a friend who is a Barnard senior but, today, was a colleague who forgot her press pass. No matter that this press conference was clearly irrelevant to Day coverage. We sat next to the economics professor who taught my freshman-year intro lecture. He told me I still looked like a student. Is that a good thing?

When it was Clinton's turn to speak, she spoke about pay equity and then used the forum to segue into speaking about today's Wall Street debacle as evidence of a failed Bush presidency, calling its response to the current recession "haphazard at best" and calling on Bush to convene an economic summit.

"Pay equity is a critical issue, but having the jobs underlying that pay equity is absolutely essential," Clinton said.

A reporter from WNYC asked Clinton what she would have done if she were president last night, as Lehman Brothers and Merril Lynch tumbled, and the "3 a.m." phone call arrived.

"I would've answered the phone - I'm not sure that President Bush did," she replied.

Anyway, I was close enough to where Clinton was standing to see that she is much prettier in the flesh than she appears on camera. She is more petite, and she has large, gorgeous blue eyes. (She could use a new haircut - my friend and I agreed that it veered too close to mullet.)

She also has a knack for making her reactions to other speakers clear without deflecting attention from them. She listens closely and is sharp and can reel off parallelism-laden political rhetoric with one brain hemisphere tied behind her back. It was interesting to watch her use the lectern to weigh in on Wall Street despite it being just vaguely related to the GAO report, because it underlined the fact that anything that comes out of Hillary Clinton's mouth gets close attention. That can be a negative on the campaign trail, but she understands how to harness that power as an asset too.

(Photo Credit: Dorothy Denburg. Debora Spar is behind Clinton on the right. She seems delightful.)

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